A broadcast team is a sports fan's guide for the viewing experience. I use that analogy because I just returned from the Aaron Rodgers 12-day cleanse. Taco Bell would do the trick next time, but I also came to the same conclusion as Aaron. I REFUSE to write another wor.........until I'm the highest-paid blogger on the Internet. See? I just negotiated my demands in the middle of a sentence while ignoring calls from my parents and you didn't even notice. It worked by the way. Don't ever doubt the power of a clear mind (and bowels). Where were we? Oh yeah. Broadcast teams. The play-by-play guy is the equivalent to leading a hike while listening to The Grateful Dead. The hike is the game. The Grateful Dead is the color commentator because they open up your mind to things you might not have experienced before. This is what Bill Raftery's "Onions!" catchphrase does during the NCAA Tournament.
It's the play-by-play guy's job to keep the broadcast on track, so the analyst is given more freedom to showcase their personality. Think Bill Walton, who, by sheer coincidence, talks about The Grateful Dead during late-night Pac-12 college basketball games. John Madden saying John Madden things when he called NFL games. Tony Romo spoiling plays before they happen and getting giddy down the stretch.
Some color announcers have gone so far as to invent their own signature phrases. In basketball, Mike Breen's emphatic "Bang!" when a player hits a big shot during a NBA game is as good as it gets. At the collegiate level, there isn't anyone with better signature phrases than the one and only Bill Raftery.
Raftery's trademark calls include "Send it in big fella!" when a big man dunks -- such as Pittsburgh's Jerome Lane backboard-shattering slam in 1988. "With a little kiss!" when a player makes a bank shot (my personal favorite). "A little nickel-dimer!" when a weak foul is called. "Get the puppies organized!" when a player displays good footwork and "A little lingerie on the deck!" when a player leaves a defender in the dust.
There is one Rafteryism that stands above the rest, however.
Similar to Breen's "Bang", "Onions!" is used when a player hits a clutch shot late in the game. How did Raftery come to associate big shots with a cheeseburger's best accessory?
Let's find out.
The Story Behind Bill Raftery's Signature "Onions!" Call
RELATED: Mike Breen's Signature Calls Help Deliver a Massive Salary
"Onions!" graced basketball fan's ears for the first time during a New Jersey Nets broadcast in 1995. Nets guard Kevin Edwards hit a shot late in a game against the Orlando Magic. How did the former Seton Hall coach react? That's right, "Onions!"
Ian Eagle, who was the Nets play-by-play man alongside Raftery for eight years, explained his initial reaction to ESPN.
"I always thought I was pretty good at translating what Raftery was getting at," Eagle said. "So Kevin Edwards hits a shot and he says, 'Ohhh, onions!' We go to break and I say to him, 'What was that? So good you had to cry?' And Bill says to me, 'No, big balls!'"
Raftery is the best.
"Onions!" "With a kiss!" Where did all these phrases come from?
Life is better with Bill Raftery ?ONIONS? calls https://t.co/JPVQMiV32U
— Riley Michel (@rileymichel) March 20, 2022
"The short phrases came into being because it was a way to contribute to the commentary, while making sure I wasn't getting in the way of the play-by-play man," Raftery said, per ESPN.
We're sure glad he did, and brightening up the broadcast isn't the only thing he's done with his phrases, he's also made a profit.
Back in 2014, the basketball analyst trademarked "Onions!" and "With a kiss!" to protect the words as Raftery's on calls and on apparel like t-shirts. Raftery isn't the first sports personality to trademark a catchphrase, either. Legendary boxing announcer Michael Buffer trademarked "Let's Get Ready to Rumble!" and has made millions.
We'll soon see Raftery, Grant Hill and Jim Nantz on the call for the Final Four and national championship in Houston to wrap up March Madness. You can bet the 79-year-old Raftery will have a bag of onions at his disposal for college basketball's biggest stage. Sure, this is Jim Nantz's last March Madness, but Raftery is not ready to hand up his headset anytime soon.
MORE: Who is Jim Nantz's Wife?
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